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Star Wars: The Sequel


Sean Gonsalves

Back

in September of 1999, at the Citadel military college in Charleston, South

Carolina, president-elect George W. Bush gave a policy address that his

Orwellian speech writer called: “Defense: A Period on Consequences.”

In

that speech, he talked about “the contagious spread of missile technology and

weapons of mass destruction” and therefore the “need” to bolster our

unrivaled military power. “I know that the best defense can be a strong and

swift offense…The best way to keep the peace is to redefine war on our

terms.”

A

central piece of Bush’s “defense” program is the implementation of

Reagan’s failed “Star Wars” initiative. Military planners must be excited.

In a Pentagon-commissioned Strategic Studies Group IV paper, it candidly states:

“In order to neutralize – and selectively deny access to – space, DOD

(Department of Defense) must develop the means to control and destroy space

assets, while selectively reconstituting its own capability through multiple

sources.”

They

call it “space control.” It’s the logical extension of our policy planners

stated goal of “Full Spectrum Dominance” – “to defeat any adversary and

control the situation across the full range of military operations.”

Therefore, US forces must have “access to and freedom to operate in all

domains – space, sea, land, air and information,” according to the

Pentagon’s Joint Vision 2000 paper.

All

this talk of “defense” blurs important distinctions that need to be made if

one is to wade through all the double-talk. In military literature, the concept

of the use of force breaks down into two categories: deterrent and compellent.

The

idea of deterrence is quite simple: The deterring nation essentially says to the

aggressor: “If you do X, we will beat you silly with this stick.” Compellent

force, on the other hand, is the use of military power to either stop an

adversary from doing something he has already began or to compel him to do

something he has not yet initiate. “We are going to beat you senseless with

this stick until you do what we tell you to do.”

Bush

and company talk about Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), as if it’s about

deterrence. It’s not. It’s about first-strike capability – something that

can be glimpsed when you consider the development of Anti-Satellite (ASAT)

warfare – a program that US military leaders began pursuing in response to the

Soviets launching the Sputnik in orbit.

Since

then, ASAT has been developing along side BMD, according to Robert Aldridge, a

former designer of Trident submarine missiles and a 25-year military technology

researcher. “Since missiles and satellites entered the modern age, schemes to

destroy both of them have been closely interwoven. BMD and ASAT programs,

ostensibly separated and autonomous, have supplemented and reinforced each other

for decades,” he explained in a paper published in August.

ASAT

technology is attractive to military planners because it is easier to destroy a

satellite in a known and tracked orbit than to instantaneously detect, target

and destroy a ballistic missile, Aldridge points out.

 “The

Airborne Laser and the Space-Based Laser would also be much more effective

against satellites where they only shoot through the void of space, as opposed

to shooting down into the atmosphere at missiles in their boost phase. The

atmosphere tends to spread the laser beam – called blooming – so it is

diffused and cannot be concentrated on a vital spot,” he wrote.

Aldridge

also notes that decades of ASAT technology research and development has been

studiously ignored by the press and politicians. “With all the evidence and

professional opinion opposed to BMD – to say nothing of the political,

diplomatic, and arms control nuances – one must wonder if there isn’t an

ulterior motive for such tenacity to missile defense activities. BMD programs

could well be a front for developing an ASAT capability; at the very least, a

parallel effort.

“But,

if so, why is ASAT development being done so clandestinely? Probably because the

uproar of public opinion would be even greater and international dissent even

stronger.”

The

truth about BMD and ASAT is masked by the “defensive connotations under which

they are presented to the public. It is hard to criticize anything that is truly

defensive….In this case, the announced intentions do not reflect the

capability the US is seeking – a capability revealed by close study of how

military development programs fit together to achieve it. That is an aggressive

first-strike capability which is neither defensive nor deterrent,” he

concluded.

Bush

says “the best way to keep the peace is to redefine war on our terms.” I

think the best way to create peace is to redefine the terms of the debate and to

stop assuming that war is inevitable. This is Star Wars, the sequel, except this

is no movie.

 

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